Love the Oceans
Sharks are brutally murdered every single day. One of the main threats that sharks currently face is the international shark fin trade, with tens of millions of sharks caught every year for shark fin soup.
Shark finning is the inhumane practice of cutting off a shark’s fin and throwing its body (which is still living) back into the ocean. Most sharks need to swim continuously to keep oxygen-rich water flowing over their gills, therefore, without their fins, the shark is likely to drown, starve or be eaten. Shark killing is when the entire shark is landed, the fins cut off (usually while it’s still living) but the rest of the body is still used. For example the teeth are sold to tourists and the meat eaten.
Francesca Trotman, a marine biologist from the UK witnessed this brutal act whilst undertaking an internship in Mozambique. Although it was a very emotional experience she soon realised it wasn’t the individuals who are doing the killing that we need to be angry at, they’re just trying to put a meal on the table. It was the shark fin industry as a whole.
After returning to university Francesca decided that she wanted to find out more about the shark fin industry in Mozambique. She spent 4 months with the local shark fishermen and researched the sustainability and depth of the industry in the region. Due to a small data set her results could not be put forward to stop this unsustainable practice. She soon realised that she needed to recruit a dedicated team to get more data. This was why Love the Oceans was founded.
Love the Oceans is a non-profit marine conservation organisation located in Guinjata Bay, Mozambique. Working alongside the local community they hope to protect and study the diverse marine life. They use research, education, and diving to drive action towards a more sustainable future. Their ultimate goal is to establish a Marine Protected Area for the Inhambane Province in Mozambique, achieving higher biodiversity whilst protecting endangered species.
Hey Francesca, why is Love the Oceans important for our oceans?
Guinjata Bay located in Mozambique is home to a range of fascinating marine animals from newly discovered nudibranch species, to incredible corals, sharks and the famous humpback whales! However, this region has no protection and very little regulation to stop unsustainable human exploitation.
The research we’re collecting will offer protection for the area and will also regulate activities (like fishing). We do a lot of educational community outreach because, once the MPA has been legally established, you need a local community equipped with the skills to manage it successfully and benefit from it, alleviating poverty and benefiting humans as well as the environment.
Our area has never been studied before and a lot of our research is the first of its kind in the region, which means it’s integral for ensuring a sustainable future for the bay.
Explain your mission statements
Initially we started off with the abolishment of the shark fin trade being our main goal but the more I read into successful conservation strategies the more it became apparent we needed to work with the local community. Our current mission is to establish a Marine Protected area (MPA). This will allow us to protect a lot of different species, including sharks as well as the area itself.
Mozambique has a large shark finning industry; have you seen any improvements in the sustainability and the local communities opinions on sharks since you set up love the oceans?
Love the Oceans has only been around 4 years so we’re pretty young. However, since our educational outreach work began, we’ve seen a visible decrease in the fear of the ocean. People’s general attitudes to the sea have changed and some people have voluntarily changed their fishing habits.
Unfortunately, the shark fishing continues and will do so until we can publish our paper on shark finning in the region and lobby for legislation change. We’re hoping to do this in the next 3 years. However, this shark fishing is done by a select few individuals and we’ve noticed a change in the community where this activity is no longer supported.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
First of all we have our research. That’s fisheries research, coral reef surveys, humpback whales, other megafauna (whale sharks & mantas) and trash. Within each of these areas there are a range of projects. For example, with our ocean trash research we’re now developing a web app so people can log trash as they walk along the beach on their phones and contribute to our database.
Within our community outreach we have continued to work at 2 schools every year (Guinjata School and Paindane School). We have improved the learning facilities and built classrooms. When we started working at Guinjata School they had 1 complete classroom, they now have 7. Paindane started off with 5, they now have 8. So we help with construction work as much as we can, doing annual fundraisers and employing local builders, sourcing our materials locally, which means we invest in the local community and create jobs, whilst improving the learning facilities and the children’s future prospects.
As well as this, we have an agreed syllabus and teach basic marine resource management. We cover key topics including marine animals, geography, trash, ecotourism and sea safety. By educating the next generation of fishermen in sustainability, there is hope for the seas in the future.
We do workshops with the adults in the community, doing upskilling workshops to train individuals with business skills, sustainable livelihoods and the importance of conservation.
To keep this all running we host volunteers every year at our base in Mozambique. These are usually international students interested in conservation science, looking for hands on, useful and practical experience. Some of our work is therefore volunteer coordination and training, but volunteers are essential to keep everything running.
What do you hope the future will bring for love the oceans; do you have any new exciting projects lined up?
One of the beauties of being a grassroots initiative is that we’re always growing, expanding and coming up with new ideas and projects. 2019 will be a very exciting year for Love The Oceans with lots going on. We’ve recently expanded our megafauna and trash research and have some exciting scientific projects on the horizon.
As well as this we have partnered with the incredible organisation Photographers Without Borders which is an NGO which links photographers & videographers with non-profits that need help with their media campaigns. We had the CEO of PWB join us with another awesome videographer this year and we spent 2 weeks filming for their web series but they’re returning again in 2019 running a workshop with 12 budding photographers and videographers which will be awesome!
We’ve also been expanding our partnerships with academic bodies, other NGOs doing similar things and it’s a very exciting year ahead for Love The Oceans!
Lastly, What advice would you give to people who want to start their own non-profit?
It’s hard work but TOTALLY worth it. Make sure the path you’re going down is something you’d be willing to sacrifice a lot for and you’re incredibly passionate about. Resilience is key. You’ll be knocked down countless times, many people will say what you’re doing is impossible, but you need the resilience to get up again and keep going. Lastly, find passionate team members, they will be invaluable. I’m very fortunate enough to have a number of incredible people who support me and love the oceans.